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The explosive growth in the number of law school clinics over the last 50 years began with an individual client focus as a core component. This contributed to reducing unmet legal needs in substantive areas such as landlord-tenant, family, consumer and other areas. These service clinics accomplished the dual purpose of training students in the day-to-day challenges of practice while reducing the number of unrepresented poor. In recent years, however, the trend has been to broaden the law school clinical experience beyond individual representation and preparation for law firm practice. So-called “impact” clinics typically address systemic change without significant individual client representation. In this chapter from the forthcoming volume, Beyond Elite Law: Access to Civil Justice for Americans of Average Means(Samuel Estreicher & Joy Radice eds., Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2014), the authors argue that the shift from service clinics to impact clinics is partly driven by clinicians’ search for status within the academy. Specifically, status plays an important role in a clinic design that permits clinicians to more easily engage in theoretical and doctrinal scholarship on subject matters that are more respected within the academy. The authors predict that this trend toward development of impact clinics will continue, particularly at higher ranked law schools, with the unfortunate side effect of reducing clinics’ contribution to addressing access to justice issues.


Final version published in Beyond Elite Law: Access to Civil Justice for Americans of Average Means (Samuel Estreicher & Joy Radice, eds., Cambridge University Press, 2014).